ALA study: public library funding & technology access

Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2006-2007 Report is out today. I haven’t looked at it yet and was waiting for it to hit the website. The URL for the actual 6MB file is here

If you bookmark the page the document is linked to it will appear as “ALA | 2006-2007 Report” on your bookmark list. While I continue to make the point that tech/web savviness is going to be an important part of being useful relevant libraries in the 21st century, we still put out documents intended to be widely disseminated in PDF format, not HTML This assures that it will be shallowly linked and quoted, if at all, and those links will be hard to track and learn from.

The one news article that I’ve read referring to this report — an AP wire article that I read in the Las Vegas Sun — “Despite Demand, Libraries Won’t Add PCs” is a weird mess of statistics and odd conclusions (won’t add PCs? how about can’t add PCs. Who did this study again? Oh right The Gates Foundation… gee I wonder what their solution to this involves, it better not be Vista. update: the geeky artist librarian agrees). It discusses how popular technology in libraries has become, but also what the limitations are that libraries are facing. The whole article is tailor-made to support a roll-out of the Gates Foundation’s next round of funding which I’m sure will nicely sew up all the loose ends that this article pinpoints.

Except for the fact that more computers means, or should mean, more staff and more space, neither of which get a lot of lip service from technology grantors who would rather give away last year’s software for a hefty tax writeoff. You’ll note that this article says that libraries are cutting staffing so they can afford more computers. I assume then that this is supposed to imply that getting more computers means more freed up money to hire staff. However, we all know, at least out here in rural noplace, that funding remains fixed as does space and what we could really use is an operating system that doesn’t need a 20MB security update every few weeks and a browser that isn’t out-of-the-box vulnerable to a huge range of exploits that leave our computers barely working. The good news is that we can get both of those things and we don’t have to wait for someone to loan us money to do it. Sorry for the slightly bitter tone, I’ll chime in with some more facts from this study once I’ve gotten a chance to read it.

5 thoughts on “ALA study: public library funding & technology access

  1. I didn’t particularly like the way the AP story was titled. It made it sound (at first blush) like libraries don’t want to add computers.

    “Despite Demand, Libraries Won’t Add PCs”

    It seems that there’s a meme (am I using that word correctly?) in wider technology geekdom that libraries will be obsolete in X number of years. This unfortunate wording doesn’t help matters any.

  2. I had the same can’t/won’t issue. I thought the tone of the article made it sound like librarians were holding onto “outmoded” things like books and reading at the expense of what the taxpaying public really wanted, and shame on them for it. ugh.

    thanks for making the point about PDF’s vs. HTML, too. “shallowly linked and quoted” for sure!

  3. A quick Media 101: Neither the ALA nor the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes Associated Press stories or local news headlines. Anick Jesdanun wrote the story after reading the report (or at least the executive brief), and an AP copy editor wrote the headline that was sent on the wire: “Libraries lack space, wiring, funds to expand Internet despite growing demand.” From there, local editors chose their own headlines — likely to make the story more “dramatic” or to fit space in physical newspaper. (I used to edit and slug wire stories, so I remember how it could be. Don’t get me started on what I used to do with the astrology pages!) Unfortunately, many of these editors chose to write that libraries “won’t” add computers, which the article makes clear is not exactly a choice. No one I’ve spoken with at ALA or the Gates Foundation likes that headline, but we don’t get to write them — or rewrite them. Thankfully at least a handful of local reporters have taken the initiative to call their libraries and ask questions, which has led to additional coverage. There’s lots to talk about in the report, and we look forward to more people reading and commenting.

  4. 227 pages of PDFery. Now there’s a hoot and hundreds of dead trees if people want to read it badly enough to print it out.
    Thanks for the heads up, maybe I can pick out the high points online.

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